Friday, September 27, 2013

Review of Strange Shores by Arnaldur Indridason (Harvill Secker, 2013)

Drawn to Eastern Iceland in search of the brother he lost in a snow storm decades previously, Detective Erlendur has taken to sleeping in the ruins of his childhood home and wandering the mountains.  One morning he meets Boas, an elderly farmer, and they chat about a young woman, Matthildur, and some British soldiers who had died on the same night in a blizzard on the moor.  Unlike the soldiers, Matthildur’s body was never found.  Intrigued, Erlendur begins to investigate her tale, tracking down those still alive who knew her.  The more he teases apart her story, the more he’s convinced that there is more to her disappearance than at first meets the eye.

Strange Shores is the final instalment of the ‘Murder in Reykjavik’ series featuring Detective Erlendur.  Erlendur has always been haunted by the disappearance of his brother in a snow storm and the fact that his body was never found.  He blames himself for the death and searches the moors for his final resting place.  He is drawn to the story of Matthildur, a young woman who similar vanished whilst walking in the hills.  Indridason weaves these two threads together in Strange Shores.  As with previous books, the pace is often slow, ponderous and reflexive.  That in itself is fine, however, the story suffered from two issues.  First, after a decent start, it began to feel like a novella extended into a novel, with too much of the tale not moving the story forward.  Second, some of the dialogue felt clunky, which might have been a translation effect, but disrupted the narrative.  Further, the conclusion of the story seemed to be oddly out of key.  My overall impression then was that Strange Shores has the usual trademark melancholy, atmosphere and sense of place of the other tales in the series, but the plot and telling was weaker and thinner than some of the other books.

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